Chapter 5

Broin knelt before his master and bowed. “The soldiers of darkness have finished searching the city. There is no one left.”

Gerzh grinned. “Five hundred years I have followed in my mentor’s footsteps and finally his plan is coming to fruition. Atalan will never know we are coming until we knock at their door.”

“No,” Broin replied, “two individuals escaped, a spy from the Sisterhood of Jadela’Mar and an Awa girl she had with her. They rode southeast.”

Gerzh frowned. “I personally cleansed the city of the Sisterhood when we first arrived. How did this one manage to slip past the soldiers of darkness and enter the city?”

Broin looked up at Gerzh. “She was dressed as a soldier of darkness and probably used her enchantments to enhance the disguise. I found several guards at the western city gate that remembered seeing the individual carrying the Awa girl into the city. They did not think anything of it or they would have stopped them. She then killed one soldier of darkness and several other guards during her escape.”

Gerzh let out a sigh. “Assemble the soldiers of darkness outside the southeast gate. Kill the guards that permitted her to enter the city.” Broin bowed and stood up. “There is a reason why I keep the soldiers of darkness and the army separate,” Gerzh continued. “The soldiers of darkness operate in solitude and kill mercilessly while the regular army is little more than a bunch of mindless minions that are only good for large battles. Put the two together and you get unmanageable chaos.” Broin briefly nodded in agreement before he turned and left.

It was late afternoon by the time the soldiers of darkness had gathered. They stood in a field just outside the city gate. In the distance, a wingless dragon writhed on the ground crying out in pain. Gerzh stood before the soldiers of darkness, his bright energetic face that almost glowed in the sunlight directly contrasting with the centuries of facial hair hanging from his chin. He examined the assassins standing before him, all of whom he had personally picked and trained. He normally left them alone to do what they did best, kill people, but now he was unhappy that someone had slipped past them. “Whoever saw the individual with the Awa girl and did not pursue, step forward,” he ordered.

One of the soldiers of darkness stepped forward and knelt, setting his axe on the ground before him. “Sivonug. A path of blood and fire,” he growled in his raspy voice. The dragon in the background let out an exceptionally loud squeal.

Gerzh walked over to Sivonug and stood before him. He reached down and pulled off the helmet, exposing the emotionless dirty face in front of all the others. “Your path of blood and fire has ended and Sivonug has become your enemy. Take up your weapon and make your final kill.”

Sivonug picked up his axe and held it out at arms length. He leaned back and looked up at the heavy axe head. He let out a loud cry as he swung the axe toward himself, “Sivonug. A path of blood a...” There was a dull crack as the axe plunged through his forehead. His body let out a low groan as he fell backward, dead.

Gerzh stepped past the body. “You,” he said, pointing at another of the soldiers of darkness, “step forward.”

The tall thin soldier of darkness stepped forward and kneeled. He carried a bow and had a quiver of arrows strapped to his back. A sword hung at his side. “Ock. I slice, dice, cut, gut, a path of damage like a rut.”

Gerzh gave him a look of mild amusement; both because of the slogan and because of the detailed embroidery on the cloak that made him stand out from the rest. “I don’t know where you found the time for knitting and needlework when you’re supposed to be causing havoc and spreading terror, but you look intelligent enough to be able to carry out my orders,” he said. “Hunt down and kill the woman and the Awa girl before they reach Atalan.” He paused and briefly pondered the situation. “And take a horse,” he added.

Ock bowed before he stood up. As he walked away toward the city to get a horse, a big burly soldier of darkness carrying a hefty club left the group and trudged behind him. The dragon in the background let out a series of loud gasping grunts.

Gerzh watched them for a moment but then decided not to say anything. Two would be better than one. He turned back to the others. “The rest of you spread out. Kill everything you find between here and Atalan.” The soldiers of darkness began to turn and leave, going in every direction. “And will somebody shut up that dragon already!” he shouted as it made a loud roar.